UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Family, loss, and place : everyday experiences of hereditary cancer in a First Nation community Damiano Paterson, Natasha Lucia


This thesis examines how people from a First Nation community, where a unique hereditary BRCA2 mutation has been identified, perceive their risks for genetic disease. The study is based on participant observation and interviews with people from the reserve (mainly women) who have received genetic counseling and testing, as well as those who have not. Additionally, people on the reserve are worried about the affect of environmental toxins on cancer in their community, a concern that predates the identification of the BRCA2 mutation. Using a grounded theory approach, this thesis argues that cancer in this community is experienced in relation to changing roles in the family, the loss of family members due to cancer and other causes, and sense of place and its affect on views of cancer. The result is a sense that the community as a whole may be just as “at risk” as the individuals and families that have the identified mutation.

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